I think what ultimately converted me to a mushroom lover was not so much the type of mushroom, although shiitakes, chanterelles, and the coveted morel, are at the top of my list, but rather the way they are prepared. I love to simply saute mushrooms in olive oil (or butter) with some fresh thyme, until the mushrooms give up some of their moisture, become extremely concentrated in flavor, and get the slightest bit crispy. Sometimes, I'll add a dash of sherry or sherry vinegar for an extra layer of flavor.
To prepare this risotto, I sauteed the shiitake mushrooms as described above and added them back to the risotto in the last few minutes of cooking. I also rehydrated dried porcinis and used the earthy broth it created to cook the rice. To finish, I drizzled a little bit of white truffle oil over the risotto to add another umami element.
Most people have the perception that risotto is a labor intensive feat. On the contrary, once you prep your ingredients and saute the mushrooms (perhaps while enjoying a glass of wine from the bottle you've selected for this recipe), it takes approximately 18 minutes for al dente risotto.
|Shiitakes from River Valley Kitchens|
1 1/2 cups of carnaroli (or aborio) rice
1 pound shiitake mushrooms (crimini or portabello are fine), thinly sliced
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or savory), chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup pecorino, grated
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.
Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a small saucepan and cover with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer 20 minutes. Strain the mushrooms, reserving the broth. Chop up the porcini mushrooms and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium pan (I used a 2 1/2 quart cast iron pan). When the oil is hot, add 1/3 of the mushrooms (making sure not to crowd the pan, which will inhibit browning), salt and pepper to taste, and saute about 7-8 minutes. Set aside. Repeat with subsequent batches, adding more olive oil as needed.
Bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Alternatively, you can use store bought chicken broth, though, in my opinion, there's not much of a difference in terms of flavor. On the other hand, homemade stock adds a depth of flavor to any dish calling for broth. From what I've read, stock is made with the meat and bones, whereas broth is made with the meat only; thus, stock has a fuller mouthfeel and much richer flavor, due to the gelatin released from the bones as they simmer.
In a small saucepan, bring the porcini broth to a boil and reduce to a simmer. In a medium pan heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot add the onion. Saute, about 5 to 7 minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the rice. Saute for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook about 1 minute until the wine is absorbed. Add the rehydrated porcini mushrooms. Add the porcini broth, one ladle at a time, cooking and stirring, allowing the broth to be absorbed before adding the next ladle. Once you run out of porcini broth, continue adding the water, one ladle at a time, stirring until the rice is slightly firm and creamy, but by no means mushy, about 18-20 minutes (when you bite into a grain of the rice, it should be white in the center). Transfer the shiitake mushrooms to the rice mixture. Stir in the cheese and butter and cook briefly until melted. Top with a drizzle of truffle oil and chopped thyme, and a sprinkle with a bit of coarse sea salt before serving. Buon Appetito.